- Gadget believed to have a 7.85inch screen – compared to the 9.7in on the most up-to-date version of the full-size iPad
- 1 in every 6000 UK internet searches were for the iPad mini last week
- Controversial new ‘lightning’ connector also expected to be used
- Estimates claim Apple has already ordered 10 million iPad minis from suppliers
- iPad Mini, Microsoft Surface and Kindle Fire all set to go on sale this month
At 6pm tonight, Apple boss Tim Cook is set to take to the stage in a San Jose theatre to introduce Apple’s latest blockbuster product – a mini tablet set to fend off competition from Amazon’s Kindle Fire and a raft of relatively cheap smaller tablet computers.
The shrunken iPad is rumoured to have a screen that is 7.8inches across the diagonal – which compares to 9.7 on the original version.
Tech watchers suggest the device – like the latest incarnation of the iPhone – will work on the superfast 4G mobile network that will launch next week in the UK.
Interest in the new gadget has been huge – with monitoring firm Experian Hitwise saying 1 in every 6000 UK internet searches last week were for the iPad mini.
Piper Jaffray technology analyst Gene Munster said in a note to investors that he expects the iPad mini to launch on 2 November.
The firm believes Apple could sell 5 million iPad minis in the December quarter, but that will be at the expense of 1 million 9.7in iPads.
‘For every 5 million smaller iPads, you lose 1 million standard iPads,’ Munster wrote.
Apple is said to be planning to charge £200 for the smaller version, which is around half the price of the cheapest iPad 3.
However, it will remain considerably more expensive than Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which costs £129, and the higher specification Kindle Fire HD, which is £159.
Amazon has suggested it is selling its tablets at a loss in order to get it into the hands of families.
The idea is that it can then cash in through sales of a vast library of books, music, films and TV programmes.
Apple’s innovative phones, tablets and computers have always come with a hefty price premium, while its rise to become the world’s most valuable company has been fuelled by sales through its vast iTunes store.
Jason Jenkins, the editor of CNET UK, said: ‘If the leaks are correct, we can expect Apple to announce an iPad mini that’s more like a shrunk-down iPad 2 than an iPad 3.
‘It should have a 7.8-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 768. It will have the new, smaller Lightning port seen on the iPhone 5, which means you’ll need to buy a converter to plug it into any equipment that uses the old-style, large Apple plug.
‘I am expecting it to come in around the £200 mark, which would enable Apple to compete with the avalanche of cheap tablets appearing in the shops from Google, Amazon and others.
‘With Amazon selling a 7-inch tablet for just £129, though, Apple is going to going to have a real fight on its hands as it attempt to dominate the tablet market in Europe in the way it has until now.’
It is thought that Apple will also launch a tweaked version of the iPad 3 that works on the UK’s 4G network.